Ganeshbabu Venkat | 2:49am gmt 06 Aug 2010
Kensington Oval -- A view from the press box.
I had been in the media box earlier in 2006 at Trinidad and Tobago for the India-WI ODI's, it was not exactly butterflies in the stomach for me this time around. I was seeing the West Indies for the first time in Tests and a Test match in almost eleven years. #2 vs #8, a depleted one is not exactly mouth watering. However I had high hopes that Chris Gayle, Shiv Chanderpaul and Dwyane Bravo would at least provide a contest. I arrived at Bridgetown, Barbados on the afternoon of 25th June and checked in at the hotel. I immediately obtained the media pass from the West Indies team media manager Philip Spooner, as soon as I got that I was nervous, nervous not only for West Indies, but also for me as this was my first full-fledged experience as a roving reporter for Cricket Web.
I left the hotel very early in the morning to maximize my day at the cricket and was under the impression that it would be crowded to get into Kensington Oval. Alas, I was one of the first few to check in to the Media Centre. I settled myself down in the first row and took out my Mac book and camera. I could not imagine how the place would have been during the T20 World Cup. The likes of Tony Cozier, Robin Jackman, Jeff Dujon, Fazeer Mohammed and Ian Bishop came down to the second floor of the Media Centre where the journalists were seated to get breakfast and I had to pinch myself that I was really just one floor below these folks. I had already emailed Faz about an interview and introduced myself, he asked me to come and meet him in the commentary box anytime for an interview. The first few minutes I did not know what to do and I asked for pictures with Tony Cozier and Ian Bishop. I had probably the best seats in the house with a perfect view to watch the game. To the side we had a couple of Televisions showing the World Cup Football. So there was no dearth of entertainment.
A Digicel representative handed me a goodies bag with a T-shirt, Jumpdirve, Cap and a bandana and a notepad to scribble. I still could not come to terms that I was at the Kensington Oval. It was so surreal that I visualized Lara scoring his 153*, the Indians succumbing to Curtly Ambrose and the recently concluded T20 World Cup and felt so elated I was at the "Mecca" of West Indies cricket. The game had a dramatic start, Nelon Pascal, originally selected had collapsed at practice and Brendon Bass from the high performance academy was handed an unexpected Test debut. The cricket as such was not great, West Indies started in their usual fashion losing their openers and it was a sight to see the South African quickies Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn operate. The first day ended with West Indies getting all out for 231 and South Africa finishing up at 46/2. I befriended one Martin Parris, from the Caribbean Media Corporation and we were escorted by the WI media officer to the close of day press conference, which was actually at the ground and not in the press room. I was expecting Gayle whereas Otis Gibson showed up.
The second day was a Sunday and I was expecting a large turnout, unfortunately the public turned their back on West Indies and there were so many empty seats visible all over Kensington. This time I decided to explore a bit more of Kensington and walked down and had a chat with a couple of Photographers from AFP and AP and they explained me the nuances of taking pictures with their gigantic telescopic lenses. The cricket was dire and this seemed more interesting. The sun was beating down and South Africa was stuttering, Until lunch it seemed like the West Indies were going to make a match of it. But there were some moments that defied logic when Gayle did not take the referrals and DeVilliers was reprieved on two occasions and SA were slowly out batting the West Indies.
I took this opportunity to go talk to Fazeer Mohammed and got hold of him in the commentary box and interviewed him in the radio room next door. It was a great experience to interview Faz, I liked him from the first time i heard him. It was in 2000, when there was no live streaming of video and instead I had to rely on the online radio stations from the Caribbean for the games. The game I listened to was WI vs Zimbabwe and Faz just captured my attention. I always thought he was similar to Harsha Bhogle. A technician in the commentary box showed me how things work in the media box and I spoke to the director there who was kind enough to explain the schedules of the commentators and how things generally run in the box. At this moment Andrew Mason from CMC radio and Barbados FM100.7 asked me If I would be interested in talking in his program called the "Best and Mason show" on Tuesday which is quite a hit there in Barbados. I gladly agreed. The post match conference again was not interesting since Gayle again dodged and sent Suliemann Benn instead, AB DeVillers represented SA. He is one of my favorite young players and I took this opportunity to click a picture with him.
At the start of day three, The Test match appeared to be in the balance and if only the West Indies had held on to their chances could have turned out Interesting, Instead they fluffed some chances and that was enough for South Africa to take a significant lead. The South Africans were finally bowled out for 346. With a lead of 115 and a brittle batting line-up West Indies were behind the eight ball, Nevertheless there was a buzz around the ground when Gayle and Richards started in Positive fashion and reached 27 in no time. Steyn and Morkel were bowling really quick and once they started picking up wickets, West Indies collapsed in a heap and had lost four wickets by tea and it appeared the match would end by close of play. I so did not want a three day finish for I would have had to find two days worth of stuff to do in Barbados and I did not want to do that.. Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Shane Shillingford saw out the day and I thanked Shiv for taking it to the fourth day and this time it was Shiv who came to the conference and he looked determined to get a 100. Ashwell Prince came for SA. West Indies were already seven down for the day and it was a matter of time on the fourth day. I left to the hotel pretty much disappointed, however had a chance to have a drink with my Taxi driver and a couple of his buddies at the famous wicket keeper bar which was right next to Kensington. They were so happy to see an Indian and shared stories of the great Sunny Gavaskar.
The fourth day was academic and I came out in the hope of seeing a Shiv hundred. I did watch Shiv have a hit in the ground and even managed to throw a ball to Bravo. When the game started it was a slow poke from Shiv and I decided to interview Ian Bishop and it was great talking to him. The interview will be published before the West Indies tour of Sri Lanka. He had a smile to his face when I mentioned about the trap he set to dismiss Tendulkar at Kensington during the infamous Indian collapse for 81. We watched the game from the radio room which was quiet high. It was a sight to see Benn's stumps take a walk from that height and the innings folded fast. South Africans came out and knocked off the remaining runs albeit losing three wickets and a spat with Roach and Kallis added some fire to the dull proceedings and I went down for the presentation and had an opportunity to talk to Chris Gayle finally.
In the mean time Graeme Smith won a race against Paul Harris. I walked around Kensington for one last time and went back to the press box and at this moment Digicel man Imran Khan was collecting bets for the game against Paraguay and Japan and Paraguay managed to win the shootout and I won two dollars and after uploading all the photos and having some lunch. I bade good bye to my new friends at the media box, Andrew Mason was going to pick me up for the show later at 7.30PM. I went to the cricket legends museum down the road and it pained me to see the state West Indies cricket was in today. I hit the beach for the next 3 hours and off I went to the show and it was a great experience. My first time on a radio show and you can listen to it here. Carlisle Best was the other host and he was a former WI cricketer whose first scoring shot in Test cricket was a six of Ian Botham. When I mentioned that he was so impressed. I have to say that Tyson Kern from Trinidad 98.1 stole the show for he was blind and he reeled of statistics and anecdotes like that. I was so impressed and at the same time felt sad for him for what he could have achieved if he could only see. You can listen to it here.
All in all it was a great experience being a media person. As I left Barbados, I came back with a feeling of wanting more, I don't know if it was the cricket or it was just me. I could only envy the people who do it as full time profession, Will I do this again, Yes certainly, but for now I will still hold on to my day job. World Cup 2011 next stop.
P.S: Better late than never in getting out the report. :-)